By Satya Vasan
What is alternative medicine?
What are different types of alternative medicine?
What are some benefits of alternative medicine?
Alternative medicine describes a wide range of therapies that are used outside conventional medicine, meaning that they are unproven methods that have not been tested thoroughly in clinical trials. Still, according to the NIH, around 38% of Americans who are 18 and older use a form of complementary and alternative medicine therapy. To note, the difference between alternative and complementary medicine is the fact that complementary medicine is used alongside standardized treatments while alternative medicine is used instead of standardized treatments. Examples of alternative therapies include drinking green tea, getting a massage, and practicing tai chi.
Different Types of Alternative Medicine
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a therapy that originated in East Asia over 2,000 years ago. The main idea is to insert needles/wires into specific locations in the body. The idea was that doing this would improve the flow of air/energy which could help resolve symptoms and even reverse disease. For example, pressing a spot on the front leg and below the knee can help in reducing symptoms of digestive disorders and immune deficiency. Additionally, pressing between the second and first toes is used to treat headaches and pressing 1.5 inches below the belly button can treat exhaustion. Acupuncture is known to stimulate nerves and connective tissue to cause the body to produce natural pain-relief chemicals.
Ayurveda: Ayurveda, also known as one of the world’s oldest healing sciences, stems from Hinduism’s most ancient texts. Ayurveda believes that each person is made up of space, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements are further developed into three essential energies: Vata (the energy of movement) Pitta (energy of digestion), and Kapha (energy of lubrication). Each individual is thought to have a unique combination of these energies. Ayurveda works to heal the body, mind, and spirit. There are a range of Ayurvedic techniques including dietary changes, sound therapy, massage, meditation, and herbal medicine. Ayurvedic medicine believes that diet is a major part when it comes to balancing the three energies. Therefore, based on what your dominant energy is comes with specific dietary recommendations. For example, if you are a Vata type to help maintain a balance within the body you should be eating cooked foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes. However, even though Ayurvedic Medicine is listed under an alternative therapy, it is recommended to be used as a complementary therapy.
Homeopathy: Homeopathy was developed in the 1700s in Europe. It centers around the core belief that the body can cure itself. Homeopathy can be used to treat allergies, migraines, depression, IBS, and chronic fatigue syndrome. The idea is to follow the principle “like cures like” to use small amounts of natural substances to start the healing process. For instance, when looking at homeopathic remedies for allergies, red onions are used because they also make your eyes water.
Benefits of Alternative Medicine
When looking at the benefits of alternative therapies, we need to consider why many people are drawn to these unconventional methods. Many people are enlightened by the fact that these therapies focus on relaxation and reducing stress. Furthermore, many patients believe that alternative therapies allow them to feel more in control of their recovery. One of the biggest benefits includes that these remedies are natural and nontoxic. Additionally, there are growing accounts of beliefs of these therapies boosting the immune system. Overall, there is so much to learn and explore with the world of alternative therapies.